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他是Napster、Facebook、Spotify的创始人之一|《财富》杂志专访肖恩·帕克

Clifton Leaf 2018年06月24日

在Spotify成为上市公司之际,《财富》杂志采访了肖恩·帕克,他是该公司最早的上市推动者之一。在采访中,帕克分享了他钟爱这家在线音乐巨头的原因(与遗憾)和其他故事。

帕克在2016年癌症免疫疗法研究所成立发布会现场。Courtesy of The Parker Foundation

《财富》:在你的帮助下,音乐流媒体服务公司Spotify发展成为了一家国际巨头,而且在今年4月上市,估值达到了约300亿美元。它的成功似乎圆了多年前你在音乐分享先驱Napster上未完成的梦想。你与Spotify之间的合作是什么时候开始的?

肖恩·帕克:我托人将自己引荐给了丹尼尔·艾克,他是公司的创始人之一。我们在纽约见了面,谈了很长的时间,倒是找引荐人花了不少时间。我并未意识到,我们可能在某一地方曾有过交集,也就是在网上(在一个聊天室)。事实证明,那时候我确实认识简·库姆,但直到我和简见面之后才知道他是WhatsApp的联合创始人。当时我想,“等等,不会吧。我们都来自于同一家公司,而且共同成立了一家价值数十亿美元的公司。这太诡异了。”过去有一段时间,我觉得当时那些痴迷于互联网的人意识到了互联网无限的可能性,那些互联网可能性的纯粹论者则会天马行空地想象借助互联网可以做的各类事情。进入早期采纳者这个圈子是有益的。你看待事物的角度会发生些许变化。

当艾克和我在纽约见面时,他直截了当地对我说:“你知道自己是再次往火坑里跳吧。你真的想再经历一次吗?你知道你的对手都是谁吧,不是吗?”

这里的对手就是唱片行业,它的起诉让Napster关门大吉。

我知道。但我觉得我已经认识了大多数唱片公司的高管。我对他们有了更深入的了解。

你了解他们的担忧吧。

是的,但更重要的是,唱片行业的大难已经临头。这个行业已经崩溃了。CD销量的持续下滑也为尝试新鲜的业务模式提供了一个合法的窗口。与此同时,其替代模式——苹果采用的99美分下载——并没有奏效。这一模式并未能弥补CD销售的亏损。即便如此,我们在经历了两年的谈判之后才让Spotify进入了美国。这是一个很大的挑战。

你担任Spotify董事一职长达7年之久。鉴于当时的其他种种工作需要,包括你对免疫疗法治疗癌症的探索,你都在那里忙些什么,是风投公司的大量投资业务吗?

有关音乐的事情。我一直都在思考这一问题。因此有很长一段时间(在Napster倒闭之后)我都在与社交媒体打交道,但我总是会转而思考如何打造一个合理的互联网音乐销售模式。我完全可以组建一支团队来尝试这件事,但是我得知Spotify已经开始在瑞典萌芽。瑞典是全球的盗版之都,也是P2P下载和颇具实力的工程之都。它是p2p软件Kazaa一名创始人的故乡,下载工具BT的员工亦来自于瑞典。丹尼尔·艾克实际上还编写了一款名为µTorrent的BT客户端程序,在当时非常受欢迎。此外,瑞典还是音乐的国度。

但阿巴乐队除外。

即便不考虑阿巴乐队,能够以较低的薪资招聘工程师的事实对于我们来说也是大有裨益。你能够找到像丹尼尔和马丁·洛伦森)这样经验异常丰富的人士,他们都赚了不少钱,也出售过公司,因此他们知道如何打造和运营企业,而且他们还拥有产品的核心技术,因此他们有这个基础来做这件事。我们也知道,如果这个点子是你想出来的,你可能实际上就知道该怎么执行,而不是在这一方面尝试白手起家。

你从这次经历中学到了什么?

我觉得我对毅力和耐心有了更深刻的认识。这项业务与Facebook“快突破,除旧立新”的理念完全不同。在这一行当,你每天起来之后都得去和唱片公司软磨硬泡,与数字音乐团队的每一位成员合作,不仅仅只是首席执行官。你得花时间向很多人宣传,而且还得在宣传材料上下功夫,拿出能够让他们获得安全感的策略,这样,他们就不会因与你合作而被外人看作是傻瓜。

但是这一关系需要持续的维护。因此Spotify设立了一个庞大的团队来管理与所有唱片公司的关系。到了某一个阶段之后,我无需做任何事情。我只是偶尔在需要帮助的时候才出现,因为我还有一些人脉关系。但这并不是那种正式的谈判,为了达成目的而绞尽脑汁。这种模式还是蛮有效的。

我记得我曾经向一家公司的董事会进行推销,这帮人管理着一个巨大的法国集团,而董事会不得不同意了这笔交易。在我看来,每一个节点都像是一场电子游戏,你在打败小怪之后还得打大怪,最后才发现实际上还没有获得最终的胜利,因为还有一个终极怪物等待着你去征服。你必须得换一种思考方式。之后,我们必须将重心放在产品上。因此你必须强烈地意识到哪些内容对于产品来说是必要和必须的,哪些可以抛弃。

让我们稍微谈论一下社交音乐组件。Spotify是否圆了你对Napster的梦想?

回顾Spotify,我的一个遗憾在于未能实现自己的愿景,也就是打造一个真正的社交音乐网络。我们在搜索、播放、播放清单、推荐和电台方面都做的非常出色。然而,我们一直未能实现一个梦想——有着同样爱好的朋友都在这里,不妨看看他们都喜欢什么。

而这刚好是你的追求。

在某种程度上,这一点是我们希望通过Napster实现的目标之一。你在浏览某个人的收藏之后对其十分感兴趣,并通过其他用户来发现音乐。我们在Spotify也提供了一部分这样的功能,人们基本上也可以这样做。但这一功能并未成为一项首要特色。公司基本的核心产品就是搜索、检索或组织(例如组建播放清单)。作为一个产品来讲,这些功能有足够的吸引力,吸引了数亿名用户。

让我们换个话题:除了最终解决整个音乐分享的问题,你似乎特别热衷于从事一些大部分人从来都没听说过的事,并为此而骄傲,而且说真的,人们很难想象一家风投公司在硅谷的推介会上会对这类事情感兴趣:新联邦税法的隐晦条款。《投资机会法案》是什么?为什么你会如此卖力地推动这一法案?

一个简单的理念在于,如果某人拥有未实现的资本收益,他们会将资金投入基金,后者将寻找全国一些落后地区的投资机遇(或称之为“机会区域”)。这一投资的任何纳税义务将被延期。如果人们持有这笔投资足够长的时间,那么基数就会有所增加。税率方面的节省[根据投资持有期限而变动]是一项相对温和的鼓励政策。真正的激励在于,人们通过这一载体赚的每一分钱,在持有投资至少10年之后,都是免税的。

也就是罗斯个人退休账户这类的鼓励政策。

的确如此。

需要指出的是,你所提倡的并不仅仅是税法变革。为了推动这一动议,你实际上创建了一个名为Economic Innovation Group的华盛顿智囊团。

这是一个长达10年的历程。我从2008年开始认真思考这个问题。我们也看到,金融危机对某些地区造成了不同程度的影响,而且当经济复苏时,只有那些大型城市才会出现复苏迹象,而且这些城市恢复的都相当不错,并将大多数城市抛在了后面。

我觉得这是美国中部地区(为特朗普上台提供了一臂之力的地区)感到沮丧的原因,而且这些沮丧来自于那些被落在后面的工业城镇或曾经的工业城镇。但是我在特朗普上台之前便已经在思考这些问题。处于这些经济荒漠中的民众因为其抵押贷款或其社区而被困在了那里。我们一直在大谈特谈经济移动性,但是因为这些原因,人们无法移动。

是什么让你觉得通过对税法进行调整能够解决这个问题?

我最先做的事情就是与美国的首席经济学家们讨论我们可以采取哪些措施,这些经济学家包括哈佛大学的肯·罗格夫、芝加哥大学的史蒂夫·戴维斯、重点预算与政策中心的贾里德·伯恩斯坦,以及曾在美国企业学会工作的凯文·哈塞特(如今是特朗普政府的首席经济师)。由上述学者组成的智囊团与我们合作了数年,并提出了《投资机遇法案》背后的支撑理念。

在经历了数年的股市强劲增长之后,近6万亿美元的未实现收益都处于闲置状态。我们认为,如果我们能够让这一部分资本运转起来,特别是回归经济不发达的地区,那么就有可能见证这些地区发生颠覆性的变化。当时的问题在于,如何才能让这部分资金运转起来?这种方式必须同时得到保守派和激进派的首肯,同时最终还能够让城市或乡村地区焕发新的面貌或推动对最贫困地区的投资。

虽然,从其核心来看,它并不是什么新概念,不是吗?我记得已故的众议员杰克·肯普在数十年前曾提到过“企业区”这个类似的概念。为什么这个政策未能奏效呢?

最重要的区别在于,新法案是一个基于自由市场的鼓励政策,并非是税收抵免。因此,所有此前尝试的种种政策,包括新市场税收抵免或最终实现的企业区概念(由杰克·肯普提出,并由克林顿总统颁布为法令)实际上都是税收抵免政策。

我觉得其中一个很有意思的机制是,它并未将所有经济不发达地区列为机会区,而是让各州根据贫困和失业标准,在这些地区中选出四分之一可能符合条件的区域。

它的构思是非常重要的。其理念在于,首先,在这一过程中你总得给州长一些权力吧,不是吗?州层面的控制异常重要,而且让州长根据各市市长和社区提供的信息来做出决定亦是十分重要。此举能够让他们专注于那些他们曾与社区领导打过交道的地区。第二,可能也是最重要的一点在于,此举能够实现资本的集中。43%的人口普查区都符合成为机会区的条件。即便注入大量的资金,并非所有的地区都有能力实现飞跃式发展。可能有一些地区是如此之贫困和偏远,以至于他们都难以吸引到投资。但各州将负责选出最适合该项目的25%的地区。

你对哪些地区符合条件有什么想法吗?

我们为州长设定了指导原则。我说:“它应该邻近一个较为发展的地区,人们可以以该地区为跳板,将投资吸引到那些发展的并不是很好的地区。”比较好的一个案例就是帕洛阿尔托/东帕洛阿尔托地区。如果靠近学术中心或大学也是个不错的选择。有不少地方有发展的潜力,但没有获取资本的渠道。并非所有的地区都会受益,然而只要那些原本没有机会腾飞的地区实现了快速发展,或我们能够推动不发达地区的实际发展速度,那么我们就实现了我们的目标。然后,人们就会过来修建廉价住房、商业空间,所有这些设施都将成为现实。这些地区必须留住那些能够吸引员工的企业。

这一理念有点公有制的意味。引发了很多投资者的共鸣,这些投资者希望通过善举来谋求发展,例如Quicken Loans的创始人丹·吉尔伯特以及在底特律投入大量资金的摩根大通首席执行官杰米·戴蒙。而且此举是对革命性首席执行官史蒂夫·凯斯的复刻,他一直在推广他所称的“共同崛起”动议。你曾经和这些人讨论过这一理念吗?

丹·吉尔伯特是Economic Innovation Group的奠基人之一。我成立这一机构的目的是推动这一提案,并进行宣传。它属于501(c)(4)条款所规定的组织。该提案最初由蒂姆·斯科特(南加州共和党)与科里·布克(新泽西州民主党)引入参议院。在整个过程中,我们一直保持着共和党和民主党支持人士数量的平衡。

你对这一提案获得通过异常有自信,当然,这种乐观精神在任何与联邦政府打交道的人看来都是不可思议的。

我对所有人说:“大家都知道,我认为这一法案肯定会得到通过。”大家的反应是,“呵呵”。这些脾气不好、小气的税收政策专家对我们的这一提案一笑了之,而这些人在其整个职业生涯都在尝试对税法进行一些小打小闹的改动。他们说:“这可是自大萧条以来最宏大的发展经济项目,就算它是个不错的理念,但你不会连造势都不去做就指望它能通过吧?好吧,能通过才怪了。”不过,它却通过了。(财富中文网)

本采访的删减版刊登于《财富》2018年6月印刷版。

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

FORTUNE: Spotify, the music streaming service you helped turn into a global powerhouse, went public in April at a valuation of about $30 billion. Its success seems to close the loop on the adventure you began with music-sharing pioneer Napster so many years ago. How did your association with Spotify start?

SEAN PARKER: I asked around for an introduction to Daniel Ek, one of the founders. We met in New York and had a long conversation. It took me a while to find someone who knew him. I didn’t realize that he and I had potentially met at one point, online (in a chat room). As it turns out, I did know Jan Koum back then, but had no idea that he was the cofounder of WhatsApp until we later met, and I was like, “Wait a second here. This is weird, all of us from the same group, are have founded companies worth billions of dollars. That’s very weird.” There was a certain moment in time, where I think the people who were attracted to the Internet back then recognized its unlimited possibility and who were purists about its possibility, imagining all the things that it could be. It pays to be part of that community of early adopters. You see things a little differently, I think.

When Ek and I met in New York, he was very straightforward with me. He said, “You do realize you’re throwing yourself back into the furnace here. Do you really want to go through this again? You know who you’re dealing with on the other side, right?”

Meaning the music industry, which sued Napster out of existence.

Yeah. But I felt like I’d gotten to know most of the label executives. I understood them a lot better.

You understood their fear.

Yes, but more important, the apocalyptic scenario in the music industry had already come to pass. The industry had collapsed. There was a legitimate openness to trying something new because CD sales continued to drop. Meanwhile, the replacement model—the 99¢ download that Apple introduced—wasn’t working. It wasn’t compensating for the loss of CD sales. Even so, it was a two-year negotiation to bring Spotify to the U.S. That was the big challenge.

You were on Spotify’s board for seven years. What kept you engaged, given all the other demands on time: your quest to cure cancer through immunotherapy, your full plate of investments as a VC?

The music thing. I just never stopped thinking about it. And so there’s this long period [after Napster] where I’m working on social media, but I keep coming back to what I think is the right business model for selling music on the Internet. I could have built a team and tried to do it, but you had this little experiment starting in Sweden, the piracy capital of the world and also the peer-to-peer, hard-core engineering capital. It had one of the Kazaa founders. The BitTorrent stuff came out of Sweden. Daniel Ek actually wrote a BitTorrent client called µTorrent that was really popular. Plus, it’s a music country.

With the exception of ABBA.

Even if you don’t count ABBA. The fact that you can recruit engineers cheaply helped. And you had really experienced entrepreneurs in Daniel and Martin [Lorentzon]—they’d both made money and sold companies before, so they knew how to build and run a business. And they had the core of a product. So there was a base to build from. And you knew that if you contributed ideas, you could actually get execution versus trying to start something like that from scratch.

What did you learn from the experience?

I think I learned a lot about persistence and patience. It’s a very different business from the “Move fast and break things” philosophy of Facebook. It’s about getting up every day and schlepping over to the label—working with everybody on the digital music team, not just the CEO. You had to spend time evangelizing to a lot of people. You had to be creative on the fly to come up with strategies that would give them a sense of safety—that they could do this with you without looking like schmucks.

But it required constant maintenance. So at Spotify, there was a big team in place to manage all the labor relations. There came a certain point when I didn’t need to do anything. My presence was occasionally helpful because I had certain relationships. But it wasn’t the hard core negotiating, coming up with every ploy we could come up with in order to get the deals done. But it sort of worked.

I remember going to pitch one board of directors, a bunch of guys running this massive French conglomerate, and the board had to sign off on the deal. You realize, at every point, it was like a videogame when you beat the boss, and then you have to beat the big boss, and then it turns out that you haven’t actually won yet, because there’s still the big big boss you have to convince. It just required a different mentality. Then, we really had to hold our line on the product. So you had to have a very strong view of what was necessary and essential in the product and what was potentially disposable.

Talk a little about the social music component. Does Spotify scratch the itch you had with Napster?

My one regret, looking back on Spotify, was that the vision of a truly social music network never really materialized. We are really great at search, play, playlists, recommendations, and radio. But we never realized the dream of “Here are all your friends who have similar tastes—browse what they’re excited about.”

Which happens to be your passion.

It’s one of the things that we had with Napster to some extent. You’d look at someone’s collection, and you’d get interested in it and discover music through other users. We have some of that at Spotify; you can kind of do that. But it’s never been prioritized. The basic core product of search and retrieval, or organization—like building playlists—is compelling enough as a product to attract hundreds of millions of users.

So, changing gears here: Apart from finally solving the whole music-sharing thing, you seem rather excited and proud of something that most people have never heard of—and something that’s, frankly, hard to imagine a VC in a Silicon Valley pitch meeting getting excited about: an obscure provision in the new federal tax legislation. What’s the Investing in Opportunity Act, and why did you push so hard for it?

The simple notion is, If someone has unrealized capital gains, they can roll the money over into a fund that will go to find investment opportunities in certain distressed areas [or “opportunity zones”] across the country. And any tax liability from that investment is deferred. If the investment is held long enough, there is a step up in basis. The savings on the tax rate [which adjusts based on the investment holding period] is a relatively modest incentive. The real incentive is that any gains you make in that vehicle, after holding an investment for at least 10 years, are tax-free.

So it’s the Roth IRA of incentives.

Exactly.

I should point out, this isn’t a tax law change you simply advocated for. You actually created a Washington think tank, called the Economic Innovation Group, to push for it.

This has been a decade-long journey. I really began thinking about this around 2008. You could see that the financial crisis disproportionately affected certain communities, and that when the recovery happened, it really only happened in certain major cities. These places have rebounded nicely. Most everybody else is left behind.

That’s where I think a lot of the frustration in the heartland [that fueled the election of Donald Trump] came from—from many of these left-behind industrial towns or former industrial towns. But I was thinking about all this pre-Trump. People in these economic deserts were stuck there because of their mortgages or their community. We talk a lot about economic mobility, but there are all these reasons why people can’t move.

So what made you think that a tweak to the tax law could offer a solution?

One of the first things I did was talk to some of the country’s leading economist about what we could do about it, like [Harvard’s] Ken Rogoff, and Steven Davis at the University of Chicago, Jared Bernstein [at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities] and Kevin Hassett, who was at the American Enterprise Institute, who’s now in the Trump administration in the chief economist role. This brain trust of academics worked with us for years to develop the idea behind the Investing in Opportunity Act.

Following years of strong growth in the stock market, there’s something on the order of $6 trillion in unrealized gains sitting on the sidelines. And we thought if you could get that capital back into play—and specifically, in distressed communities—then you would potentially see a transformation. The question then was how to put that money to work. It had to be something that conservatives and progressive both liked, but in the end would lead to urban or rural renewal and drive investment in the poorest areas.

At its heart, though, this is an old idea, right? I remember the late Congressman Jack Kemp talking about “enterprise zones,” in much the same fashion, decades ago? Why didn’t that policy do the trick?

The essential distinction is that the new law is a free market-based incentive and not a tax credit. So all of these prior things that have been tried—like the New Markets Tax Credit or what ultimately became enterprise zones, which was the Jack Kemp concept that President Clinton signed into law—were essentially tax credits.

One of the mechanisms that I found really interesting was the decision not to include every economically distressed area as qualified opportunity zones, but rather making states choose only a quarter of those districts that might otherwise qualify, based on poverty and jobless metrics.

So the thinking there is really important. The idea is (1) you want to give governors some skin in the game, right? State control is really important, and letting governors make decisions with the input from their mayors and from their communities is important. It allows them to focus on the places where they have engaged leadership at the community level. And second, and perhaps most importantly, it concentrates capital. Forty three percent of the census tracts were eligible to be nominated as opportunity zones. Not all of these places are going to take off, even with an influx of investment. Some areas are probably so distressed or so disconnected that they’re going to have a hard time attracting investment. But states get to choose the 25 percent that are the best fit for the program.

And you have some thoughts on where those locales should be.

We laid out guidelines for governors. I said, “You’d like to be near an area that’s already doing well, where you can start to attract investment to a neighboring area that’s not doing as well.” A good example of that is Palo Alto/East Palo Alto. And it would be good if you were near an academic center or university. There’s a bunch of places that have the potential to take off but haven’t had access to capital. Not every area will benefit, but a win for us would be that some areas that just would not have taken off really explode—or we can accelerate the pace at which these underdeveloped areas actually develop. And then there are people who are going to come in and build affordable housing, commercial space, all of that stuff is going to be built out. You’re going to need anchor businesses that attract a work force.

This idea is having a kind of communal resurgence. It’s resonating with a lot of investors, who want to do well by doing good—people like Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who have made a huge investment in Detroit. And this has been a refrain of Revolution CEO Steve Case, who has been championing what he calls “The rise of the rest.” Did you talk this idea through with some of these folks?

So Dan Gilbert is on our founders circle at the Economic Innovation Group, which is the organization I set up to push for this, to advocate. It’s a 501(c)(4). The bill was originally introduced in the Senate by Tim Scott [Republican of South Carolina] and Cory Booker [Democrat of New Jersey]. And we maintained an equal balance of Republicans and Democrats all the way through.

You were strangely confident this thing was going to pass—which is, of course, a remarkably optimistic perspective for anyone who’s dealt with the federal government.

I told everyone, ‘You know I think this is going to pass.’ And everybody was like, ‘Yeah right.’ The crusty, curmudgeonly tax policy experts, who had spent their whole career trying to advocate for some minor change in the tax code, laughed our idea off. They’d say, “You’re going to pass the most ambitious development economics program since the Great Depression, and you’re going do it without an advocacy campaign, just because it’s a great idea? Yeah. Uh-huh. That’s going to happen.” And well, it did.

An abridged and edited version of this interview is published in the June 2018 print edition of FORTUNE.

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